Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

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Groussard
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Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Groussard » 04 Mar 2015 18:48

OK, I teach history and I have been an avid reader of personal accounts of WW2 soldiers of any side for a long, long time, now. I'm currently reading the memoires of Hans von Luck, Oberst of the 7th Panzer Division and 21st Panzer Division (KG von Luck): Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck.

From the start, I was surprised by the number of small inaccuracies, and by the middle of the book I slowly started noticing that certain things just don't add up, so now I wonder whether the Colonel might be bullsh*tting us with his war stories.

There is not much to be found on von Luck on the Internet, and curiously, the rare things which show up first are threads from posters who cast doubts about von Luck's self-biographical accounts.

For example (thank you for the advice regarding the links. I've adjusted that):

[*]"How Much of this Major von Luck’s Story is True? " ("I’ve heard von Luck may embellish", says the OP) http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthr ... ry-is-True

[*]"Hans von Luck and the Cagny 88s. Fact or fiction?" (" Do you believe then that von Luck (a well-known recontier) was one of those who never let the facts get in the way of a good story? In other words, do you think he's a liar? ") http://www.ww2f.com/topic/45330-hans-vo ... r-fiction/

[*]Hans von Luck apparently presented as close friends, and made "revelations" about, people he was not, or at least not well acquainted with, like a certain Duhour who he said was a resistant, while everything shows he rather was a collaborationist : https://aael2015.wordpress.com (in French, written by a French scholar, the author apparently believes that von Luck is sincere and the inaccuracies are unintentional, so he speaks of possible "post-traumatic sequelae in a gulag survivor")

Are von Luck's stories to be taken seriously, in general? What's your take on it? Many thanks for the answers.

Groussard
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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Groussard » 05 Mar 2015 09:26

Bump?

Marcus, perchance?

Anyone?

Thank you in advance for any light you can throw on the subject!

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seaburn
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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by seaburn » 05 Mar 2015 11:47

Perhaps if you hi-lited the accounts in the book that you think are dubious this could be debated by those who have studied that particular area. This should mean that the facts get analysed
rather than someone's general opinion which could be influenced by many outside factors of bias etc.

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Flint
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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Flint » 07 Mar 2015 01:16

For what it is worth, Hans Von Luck seemed sincere and believable during his interview with Larry King during the 50th anniversary of D-Day on CNN.

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doogal
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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by doogal » 07 Mar 2015 11:20

I believe just like Feuchtinger he had a questionable mistress but he was one of the youngest colonels in the German Heer
from 1936 he worked under Guderian in 1939 went to 2nd light went to Poland then 7th Pzr in France then Russia in 1941: Rommel requested him so off to the 21st Pzr: Normandy next in 1944.. went to prison in Russia and he had a long friendship after the war with Major John Howard(paratrooper) I think if you stick to his war record and ignore the surreptitious anecdotes he reads ok....

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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Gunbirddriver » 11 Apr 2018 05:14

When Luck wrote his memoir, he was about 80 years old. The fact that there might be errors in date and place in the memoir are not surprising, given his age and the many years that had passed since the time that the events had transpired. Luck was not writing a text book, it is not footnoted and researched, but written from memory and in German, and translated to English. Misinterpretation by the translator as to what he was saying, and errors in date and place are not surprising, and should not lead us to believe he is "making things up". He notes in his forward that any errors in the text are fully his responsibility. The question is not did he ever make a mistake, but was he providing us with a truthful account of his experience. To his truthfulness I think we would do well to listen to his comments in the Operation Goodwood teaching film.

In assessing the validity of a personal account, the thing to look for is the small detail that the casual observer would be unaware of. In his discussions of the Goodwood Operation recorded by the Ministry of Defense for teaching purposes, von Luck provides a number of seemingly minor comments that support the perception that the account is a true representation of his experience there. In written accounts of Operation Goodwood, Luck is usually described as arriving on the scene after the bombing has occurred. They state when he was told of the bombing he quickly went forward to try to determine what was going on, and then returned quickly to his C.P at Frénouville to try to organize a defense. But this is not von Luck's account. He quietly states that when he arrived at his command post he noted the air was strangely filled with dust, that he asked for something to eat, that he was told of the bombing that had occurred, that he got in an armoured vehicle (a Panzer Mk IV, but he does not always specify this) and he went forward slowly to Cagny to assess what the situation was. He saw British tanks moving past Cagny to the southeast, and then discovered a Luftwaffe Flak battery that had not been destroyed by the bombing. He assumed command of the Flak unit and ordered it to let the first group of tanks moving by to pass and fire on the second group of tanks coming up, promised that he would send his kampfstaffel squadron to give the guns some infantry support, and then returned slowly to his command post at Frénouville. He later returned to Cagny toward late afternoon and ordered the Luftwaffe battery to hold their position as long as possible, and then destroy their guns prior to pulling out of the position.

There are a number of details in this account that go unexplained and that add credibility to the account. Many would not know that the flak units attached to the panzer forces were under the control of the Luftwaffe and were somewhat independent, that the Luftwaffe experience in Russia was that there was much attrition in these units from land combat as they often got pulled into the land battles, that it would be entirely reasonable for a Luftwaffe CO to tell a battery chief that his concern was the air battle, and to order him not to get involved in the land battle, thus making it necessary for Luck, the commander on the ground, to "take command" of the Luftwaffe battery as it was not already under his command. Also the detail about assuring the battery chief that he would send his kampfstaffel squadron to provide them some protection is validating, as there were no infantry units in Cagny and the guns could easily have been taken by British infantry, thus this would be a concern for the battery chief and Luck addressed the issue, though it is not spelled out and the casual observer might not think of it. Allowing the first group of tanks to pass and attacking the second group is a standard ambush practice of the German army to isolate and destroy the lead units, and is a credible instruction. Returning and ordering the guns destroyed before leaving reinforces the idea that they would not have time to limber up and had to be abandoned when the position could no longer be held. But the most compelling aspect is Luck's comment that he traveled in the tank to Cagny "slowly". He does not explain this, but if asked he likely would have said that if his vehicle was moving faster it would kick up dust, and it was the dust that so often gave a vehicle away. Thus it was to limit his exposure from air attack. This unexplained, unexpected statement of moving slowly strongly adds credibility to the account.

I am familiar with Ian Daglish's contention. The fact that he could not find 88s in Cagny from his review of photo reconnaissance images does not tell us conclusively that they were not there. It tells us that he did not see them. The unsolicited small details present in Luck's account point to it being credible.

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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Cult Icon » 11 Apr 2018 14:39

This book, probably more than any other, got me fascinated with the German side of WW2.

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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Apr 2018 15:08

Gunbirddriver wrote: He later returned to Cagny toward late afternoon and ordered the Luftwaffe battery to hold their position as long as possible, and then destroy their guns prior to pulling out of the position..................... Returning and ordering the guns destroyed before leaving reinforces the idea that they would not have time to limber up and had to be abandoned when the position could no longer be held.
If destroyed then they would show up on the air views.

Where would they have been situated?

1945 air view. Click on the yellow dot and it opens in a new zoomable window.

https://remonterletemps.ign.fr/telechar ... ns.4968494


There is one Pak 8.8cm still in place in that view.
Cagny 1946 (4111) at guns small.jpg
The circle is (I believe) where von Luck says the guns were situated. North at bottom, South at top.
0019 430_535 18July44 casualties Cagny ,f n,,,.jpg
0019 430_535 18July44 casualties CCCCCCCHfg.jpg
There are 2 photos of Luftwaffe Flak Officers on July 18 that show the Command Group have dug shallow zig-zag trenches for themselves. The disturbed soil is considerably whiter than the topsoil and should be visible in air views.
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Michael Kenny
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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Apr 2018 15:51

Gunbirddriver wrote:Allowing the first group of tanks to pass and attacking the second group is a standard ambush practice of the German army to isolate and destroy the lead units, and is a credible instruction.
Do you know how many tanks were in that 'first group'?

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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Apr 2018 16:49

Gunbirddriver wrote:. But the most compelling aspect is Luck's comment that he traveled in the tank to Cagny "slowly". He does not explain this, but if asked he likely would have said that if his vehicle was moving faster it would kick up dust, and it was the dust that so often gave a vehicle away. Thus it was to limit his exposure from air attack. This unexplained, unexpected statement of moving slowly strongly adds credibility to the account.
Aug 8 1944
Cagny Church and Frenouville Church ringed
4129.jpg
distance between both is 1.5km. At moderate walking speed it would take 14 mins.
screenshot.2018-04-11 (11).jpg
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Gunbirddriver
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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Gunbirddriver » 11 Apr 2018 22:15

In responding you are repeating that the images available do not appear to show a battery of 88s. You ask me to point out where the guns are, and infer that lack of being able to point to them in the photographs presented should mean the account is false. I concede that the images do not appear to show a battery of 88s. I have already said I do not find that compelling. There are a lot of things the images do not appear to show. I do not see any people in the images you provided, yet the 11th Guards Armoured Division attempted t drive right past this area and they were made aware that there were, in fact, people present. Later this same day, David Stileman was asked to determine if Hubert Folie was occupied by the Germans. He did so by driving right through it. He found no sign of the enemy and reported so. He stated he later found out that the village was practically "groaning with the enemy". All this to say the fact that you do not see something when you take a picture, or are even there in person looking around, does not give us conclusive proof that what you are looking for is not there.

My comment was not focused on photographs, but on the people involved. The point I was making was that unsolicited small detail provide a good clue as to whether or not an account is truthful. In my opinion Luck gives all appearance of giving a truthful account.

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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Apr 2018 22:53

Gunbirddriver wrote:II do not see any people in the images you provided, yet the 11th [and] Guards Armoured Division attempted t drive right past this area and they were made aware that there were, in fact, people present.
You should check out the resolution limations of the various types of air photo before making silly claims. You can see tanks though-lots of them.
Would you like me to post an air view of an emplaced Luftwaffe Flak battery in an open field so you know what to look for?
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Michael Kenny
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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Apr 2018 23:01

Gunbirddriver wrote:The point I was making was that unsolicited small detail provide a good clue as to whether or not an account is truthful.
Small details like letting a whole Regiment of tanks and supporting troops safely pass by your position because you 'know' there will be another couple of Regiments behind them?

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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Paul Lakowski » 11 Apr 2018 23:32

You did get the part where his memoirs' were written @ 80 years old???

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Re: Hans von Luck: reliable accounts?

Post by Michael Kenny » 12 Apr 2018 01:10

This is how Daglish saw it. Note it is not just him as he recounts the views of other Goodwood scholars.

Note that this is not an attempt to mitigate the losses. It shows that other guns were known to be in the area and have a better claim than the uncorroborated and unsourced claims of one single man.
Dag (1).jpg
Dag (b).jpg
Dag c.jpg
Dag db.jpg
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